|Douglas Collins, untitled chemigram, 2016|
First off, it's on Foma FB, my go-to paper for chemigrams after years of experimenting with others. To be precise - I go off precision on this quite easily - I believe it was the Foma VC FB 132 warmtone matte I was using, from an open box laying about in my chemigram shed deep in the mountains of the central California coast, but it could have been another. It could have been the 532-II VC warmtone as well, or one of the others on baryta paper; I binge on Foma from time to time and try them all. In this case I'm going to stick with the 132. Or was it the 131 - but what's in a digit?
While I often can't distinguish all the subtleties in the various types of Foma, this I will say: the esteemed company's literature on what I will now call 'my paper' actually confirms my experience of it, and so I'm happy to quote them directly:
The paper is manufactured using a special silver chlorobromide emulsion that gives the silver image a brown-green to warm-brown tone that can further be influenced by the type of developer used. The paper base involved is colored in compliance with the tone of the developed silver. This accentuates a rich scale of warm halftones ranging from light cream up to saturated brown-to-green black ones.
Note the second sentence. It seems to say that the paper takes cues from the tone of the silver, on a shifting and certainly sliding scale friendly to brown and green; even more, it hints that secret signals are being passed for which we can only be passive spectators, that cause and effect are here incalculable or at least radically nonlinear. Pretty amazing if true. Those Czechs ! And I haven't even gotten to flagging the first sentence about the tone push by the type of developer, which is a job for a separate blog post altogether and perhaps a major experiment by our testing lab, the NFPTL.
I'll give you a detail that illustrates how attractive this paper can be. Here's the bottom left corner blown up:
|detail, lower left corner|
But we should go further, we should withdraw to a larger vantage point to discuss other qualities in the picture. How about resists, what can we say about them? How did they fare? There were two resists, a large flat homogeneous one in the lower part, which was Golden MSA varnish applied at full strength with a sponge brush, and a spray of Golden MSA from a pressurized can in the upper part. The spray was applied sparingly and at an angle, so that it was least concentrated at the top and formed a penumbra at its lower border. During the to-and-fro of the chemigram procedure, this area gradually acquired its tone, a soft mixture of lights and darks. To get this right wasn't easy, and several attempts were discarded or confined to derivative pictures. As for the large flat resist below it, the challenge there was to remove it in a single attack, as one piece, and keep the area beneath untouched by any chemistry until the last moment, when it was finally plunged into developer and submerged uniformly. Again, not especially easy.
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other current chemigram shows in New York City
Mille Falcaro, Soho Photo, February 8 - March 4
Eva Nikolova, Columbia University, Wallach Art Gallery, Feb 18-May 13
Nolan Preece, New York Hall of Science, March 4 - May 21